Kate Leahy Hein
is the recipient of our 2019 Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of Southwestern
Indiana. Kate, who was a Russian Language and Literature and East Central European Studies major at University of Colorado
at Boulder, has her Master’s from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She relocated
to Evansville in 1998 with her family and is currently an adjunct instructor at USI, where she’s taught Political Science
for fifteen years and Global Studies for two.
She started working with LWVSWIN through a project in a USI research methods course
on City/County Consolidation where students developed a survey and analyzed its results following the 2012 election. Since
2014, she has served as moderator for Meet Your Legislators and two community forums on public education.
given talks locally on free trade agreements and national security policy with respect to Russian interference, and on Earth
Day in 2017, she helped organize the March for Science with colleagues at USI. In addition, she moderated a 2015 mayoral debate
for the City of Evansville.
She and her husband have two teenage daughters and a son. At present, Kate’s finishing her first
Young Adult fiction novel on the importance of liberal democracy. She is looking forward to the centennial celebration of
the 19th Amendment and the coming general election year.
Indiana Legal Services attorney Katherine
Rybak is the recipient of the 2018 Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters
of Southwestern Indiana
Kathy is a graduate of Cornell
Law School who came to Evansville in 1979 to take her first job, with Indiana Legal Services. It turned into her
life’s work, being a free lawyer for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community: the elderly, the
homeless, the battered, the sick and uncared for.
does it not just with a strong sense of what’s right, but with a passion for the law. Kathy believes in the law and
she’s relentless in pursuing it. She has routinely taken on the mammoth state Medicaid bureaucracy, the Family
& Social Services Administration, the disability system, unscrupulous landlords and creditors, and even some practices
in the local courts. She has taken five cases to the Indiana Supreme Court and has been cited in the American Bar Association’s
ABA Journal. In 2017 her alma mater, Cornell, honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
When Kathy’s not working she’s volunteering, doing free tax returns
for low-income and elderly, raising funds for a homeless shelter, recruiting volunteers for the Probate Court’s guardianship
program, and serving in the local Bar Association’s community programs.
University of Evansville Political Science Associate Professor Robert Dion is the recipient
of the 2017 Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana.
Dr. Dion firmly believes that citizens need to understand and be involved
in the political system. He has taught American politics courses at the University of Evansville since 2001. Before he came
to the University of Evansville, he taught at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University
and at Wabash College.
Outside the classroom, Professor
Dion serves as the chairperson of the local civil rights commission and on
the boards of several organizations. He is regularly quoted in news stories about political developments in Indiana or in
the United States, and he has appeared frequently on radio and television news programs, including several French-language
Dr. Dion has moderated many local debates for the
League, as well as speaking at our Lunches with the League.
Indiana State Legislator Gail Riecken was the
recipient of the 2016 Making Democracy Work Award from the
League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana.
has served as a Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives, representing the 77th District, since
2009. She was also the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Evansville in 2015. Prior public-service positions include the
Evansville City Council from 1989-99, Executive Director
of the Evansville Parks and Recreation Department, Business Relations Specialist for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Neighborhood Coordinator for the Community Action Program.
Gail's extensive list of community
involvement includes Ark Crisis Prevention Nursery Co-Founder,
Family & Children Services Board Member, Conrad
Baker Foundation Director, HOPE of Evansville President, Junior League President, the Preservation Alliance Board, Pigeon
Creek Greenway Advisory Board member, Evansville Dance Theater Board President, and the Pigeon Creek Greenway Advisory Board,
the Little Lambs Board, Citizens against Rape in Evansville, and Local and State Child Abuse Prevention Board member and Task
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush was the recipient of the 2015
Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana.
Rush took the oath of office as Indiana's 108th Supreme Court Justice on November 7, 2012 and became Chief Justice on
August 18, 2014. She serves on the Commission on improving the Status of Children in Indiana and has represented
Indiana multiple times at the National Judicial Leadership Summit on the Protection of Children. She serves as liaison
to the Division of Supreme Court Administration, the Division of State Court Administration, the Indiana Judicial Center,
the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity, and the Indiana Judges Association, and chairs the Judicial Nominating/Qualifications
As juvenile court judge in the Tipecanoe County Superior Court for 14 years,
she assisted with the creation of the county's CASA program. During her tenure, she helped initiate, develop and sustain
more than 25 youth programs.
Judge Rush was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Women's Equality
Day Luncheon in Evansville.
Indiana State Senator Vaneta Becker
was the receipient of the 2013 Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of Southwestern
Senator Becker has represented southwestern Indiana
since 1981, serving in the Indiana House of Representatives until 2005, and in the Indiana Senate since then.
that time she has worked tirelessly to represent her district, and she has received numerous awards for outstanding service
at the state level. Honoring groups include the Indiana Area Agencies on Aging, the Indiana Coalition for Human Services,
Leadership Evansville, the Indiana Retired Teachers Association, the Evansville Teachers Association, the Albion Fellows Bacon
Center, Ark Crisis Center, Komen Evansville Affiliate, the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, the Indiana Primary Health Care
Association, the Indiana Coalition gainst Domestic Violence, Indiana Association for Home and Hospice Care, the Indiana Council
of Administrators of Special Education, the Indiana Home Care Task Force, the Lampion Center, ALCOA, USI Alumni Association,
and the Indiana Association of Ophthalmologists.
is on the Board of the ARK Crisis Prevention Nursery as well as the Indiana Commission on Women.
Jim Daniels was the
recipient of the 2012 Making Democracy Work Award.
Daniels was honored for his years of dedication and leadership to the Meet Your Legislators meetings. He served as organizer
and moderator for many years. The Award was presented at the February 25th session of Meet Your Legislators at Central
Library in Evansville and was signed by League President Lezlie Simmons and Indiana State Senator Vaneta Becker.
Mr. Daniels has also been active with Sustainable Evansville and the Izaak Walton League
of Indiana. He served as Evansville recycling coordinator for many years.
Representative Dennis Avery was the recipient of the League's third annual Making Democracy Work. The
award "honors a leader who has contributed in a meaningful way to ensure our community remains a strong and vibrant place
to live and work."
Avery, who retired
at the end of the 2010 legislative session, was honored for his 36 years of service to the 75th District and the state
of Indiana. League president Roberta Heiman commented that "During his Statehouse career, Avery pushed for legislation
dealing with children's rights, including reporting child abuse and neglect and the creation of programs to help prevent further
The award was presented
at the April 8th, 2010 Lunch with the League at the YWCA.
Vanderburgh County Clerk Susan
K. Kirk was the recipient of the second annual Making Democracy Work Award in 2009. The 2008 MDW
honoree was Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepherd, honored for his work on the Kernan-Shepherd report on streamlining
Ms. Kirk was instrumental in establishing
polling stations in the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Libraries during the 2008 and 2009 elections, making the election more
accessible to Vanderburgh County residents. She also cooperated with a League survey of poll workers that led to several
changes in the training of these workers.
Kirk gets Making Democracy Work award for early voting